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Dec 28, 2023, 3:41pm EST
Southeast Asia
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Semafor Signals

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Indonesians want to turn away Rohingya refugees from a once-welcoming province

Insights from South China Morning Post, The Jakarta Post, and Al Jazeera


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Rohingya refugees gather in front of a government building after demonstrating university students forced them to relocate from a previous government facility, in Banda Aceh on December 27, 2023.
Chaideer Mahyuddin/AFP via Getty Images
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The News

Around 200 university students in Indonesia’s Aceh province protested Wednesday against the increasing arrivals of Rohingya refugees and called on the government to turn them away, reflecting growing discontent in the country and across Southeast Asia about sheltering the stateless Rohingya.

Nearly one million members of the persecuted Muslim minority group in Myanmar have fled to camps in Bangladesh, but increasing violence, crowded conditions, and a lack of pathway to citizenship have forced many families to make a perilous trek to neighboring Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand. More than 1,500 Rohingya have arrived in Aceh since November, but locals have accused them of wreaking socio-economic havoc, and the influx of refugees has raised concerns about human trafficking.

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SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

Aceh’s drastic shift from a place once praised for hospitality to Rohingya

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Sources:  
The Conversation, Deutsche Welle, Al Jazeera, United Nations

Although Aceh has been historically known to welcome refugees, local authorities are “likely tired” of the strain on resources and the lack of support from the national government, Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch told DW News last month. Aceh has one of the highest poverty levels in the region and local residents have complained about redirecting much-needed resources to refugees: “We are poor people. Why don’t you use the money to help us?” one woman told Al Jazeera. The population’s growing hostility against Rohingya has prompted Jakarta to urge the international community to shoulder more responsibility in addressing the refugee crisis. But a lack of funding to the UN forced it to cut food aid for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, with daily food rations in June down to $8 per person per month.

Fake UN accounts spread hate and misinformation against Rohingya

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Source:  
South China Morning Post

Organized hate and misinformation campaigns against the refugees and UN agencies are fueling anti-Rohingya sentiment in Indonesia, the South Morning China Post reported. Activists were concerned that people fell for fake UN accounts intended to disrupt efforts to find shelters and provide help to the refugees. The UNHCR said it was targeted by an “orchestrated” hate campaign on TikTok and Instagram, where a barrage of comments collectively called for the dissolution of the aid agency. One social media user flagged by the UN reportedly sent messages saying the “Rohingya should be kicked out because Indonesia will turn into the next Palestine following their arrival,” a UN report said.

Indonesia not legally obligated to help Rohingya

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Sources:  
The Jakarta Post, Al Jazeera

“If our legal obligations are unclear, our moral ones are not,” The Jakarta Post’s editorial board wrote, slamming Indonesian government officials for saying that the country was not obligated to help Rohingya because it wasn’t a signatory of the 1951 Refugee Convention. While acknowledging that refugees have “caused headaches” for governments, the board wrote, “We cannot just leave them stranded or send them out to perish at sea.” The Post argued that as a signatory to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, Indonesia was obliged to rescue people in distress at sea, including Rohingya. The Indonesian navy has been escorting refugee boats back to sea, which human rights NGO KontraS said demonstrates “a lack of empathy” and “commitment to upholding human rights.”

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